Baby Blues, Post Partum Depression (PPD); we’ve all heard about it before our first child, but most of us never think it will affect us. As an optimistic, pro-active, energetic, therapist person, these were certainly on my list of things never expected!
The truth is that hormones are largely responsible for varying degrees of PPD, including the Baby Blues. Why is it I hear so many women saying, “Oh, it’s just the baby blues”? Just because we experience something that might be considered normal doesn’t mean that the effects on us and our babies should be minimized. I remember that there was some shame for me not having the baby bliss everyone talked about. I loved my baby, and was close to him at all times, but I was so overwhelmed by the changes happening to me, changes that I didn’t expect from my oozing belly, to milk coming in very late, baby not gaining weight, that I was distressed! I wanted to have that perfect state I heard about, but I felt like a failure somehow.
I came to understand the other factors, besides hormones, that contribute to Post Partum Depression and Baby Blues. I had a cesarean birth that made it hard for me to lift my body on my own at night to nurse, so baby slept next to his Papa for 5 or so months while I healed. I couldn’t carry him and walk with him until I was much stronger. I didn’t have family living on island. Well intentioned friends who said they’d be there, decided I needed time to myself, not realizing that I needed community. My husband went back to work, my mother left from her visit, and I was alone. I felt alone, and was sleep deprived. All of these factors are tipping points for Baby Blues or Post Partum Depression.
Not taking proper care of ourselves as mothers affects our child’s cognitive and emotional development. I mention this because many of us mothers tend to wear ourselves out thinking that is good for our kids for us to “be strong”. I had some ability to cope and process my experience, especially with my background, and so I challenged my shame and reached out for support, which was a very difficult thing for me to do.
My husband and I went to counseling. We hired a nanny a few hours a week on the key days when his work schedule had the longest hours. I began to get massage and physical therapy when my body was ready. I accepted help where it was being offered, by a wonderful new neighbor who was happy to visit and watch the baby so I could shower. She even brought me dinner a few times. Another friend cooked me a fabulous meal, a luxury at that time. Last but not least, I called up the mamas from our Birthing Within class, and made a gathering with the families and our new babies. This started a weekly mama gathering, where we uplifted each other, and provided support and understanding for each other. We laughed and cried, and shared our stories and our babies. We became family for each other in this home away from home for many of us on Maui. This was the most helpful and profound move I made which changed my life.
My hope is that new moms reading this, who may have some of these experiences, can feel empowered to understand and recognize their experience, reduce shame, and get support. My life opened up and changed, my difficulties coping with new motherhood subsided, because I reached out to some very wonderful people and I am very grateful that I did.
(Please note: More difficult degrees of PPD are not discussed here, and should be evaluated and monitored by a physician or mental health professional.)
Image Credit: mauimama